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Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
6:03 pm - Fiona
I remember this time of year, 16 years ago. I was young and in love with a red haired girl. The evenings were getting crisp. Which was a novelty for me, coming from the tropics I hadn’t seen many real autumns. We walked hand in hand, always. We’d met not long ago, just before the summer. I was a lost soul, alone in a strange city, no job, undiagnosed autistic, skinny and kind of ugly. She was very young and quite beautiful, but in an unhealthy relationship with another man, with nowhere else to go. By some strange chemistry that I don’t understand to this day, we were perfect for each other.  And by some strange destiny we found ourselves living next door to each other and going to the same TAFE. And we came together. I don’t think there could be anything in the world that could have stopped us coming together. It feels like ten thousand years of the universe spinning had happened solely for these two people to finally come together. And so we walked around the streets of Windsor in the evenings, in the crisp autumn air, hand in hand. I was still a bit lost, but I was also happy like I had never been. Those were beautiful days. We had our fights, like all couple do, we even broke up once, for a short time. It wasn’t a very successful breakup. We married eventually, had children, settled down. I’m not so lost any more, and not so young. There are no autumns where we live now. But the love remains as strong as ever. And those days, walking around the parks of Windsor hand in hand in the evening, they are so real in my head I can feel the cool air on my face and her warm hand in mine right now. This is love.

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Sunday, October 28th, 2012
7:50 am - Facing Life, Facing Death: Turning 40
I have turned 40. What does that mean? Once 40 was an important milestone socially. Before that it was more of a tombstone. Now, is it just a number? Is it no more relevant than age 27 or 59? Well, yes and no. It is a time of the midlife crisis, a time when it starts to become obvious to most people that they are mortal. A time where you transition from “growing older” to “growing old”. But what is growing old? Well, we know what it is, but surprisingly, nobody knows why. We’ve read the genomes of pigs, we’ve landed robots on Mars, but our intellects are humbled, for now at least, by our own most personal and basic functions. There are hypotheses, but nothing proven yet. I’ll go through some below, just for morbidity’s sake (if you’ll excuse the pun).

This is what is happening to me. It is happening to everyone, but the effects accumulate the older you get. Firstly, the elastin in my body is breaking down. My skin is getting wrinkles and is beginning to sag, and my joints are starting to feel stiff for longer in the mornings or if I’ve been still for too long. Eventually, my skin will not stretch at all, and that stiffness will last all day. Likewise the collagen is breaking down, with similar effects. But it is most visible because my lips are getting thinner and my cheeks are less round. Eventually my skull will be quite prominent. The testosterone that is so prevalent in my male body is damaging all sorts of processes, not least my hair. This means my forehead is more visible year by year, though so far I haven’t done too badly there, it’s obvious that my hairline isn’t where it used to be. Ironically, hair continues to colonise all sorts of strange places on my body. Nobody ever told me as a teen that one day I’d have to shave my earlobes. Unfortunately testosterone does nastier things than just bruise your vanity, all sorts of cancers become increasingly likely due to its presence. The hormone does amazing things, but it’s also a killer.

Every day I live, my very DNA is eroding. Cells divide in my body constantly as bits are replaced or healed, on a scale to tiny to notice. But every time a cell divides, the DNA has to be copied. No system is perfect, any time you copy information, be it a computer file or a photocopy or a string of self-replicating amino acids, errors will sometimes occur. And those errors will be repeated every time from then on, gradually joined by more and more errors over the years. And the entire string is never copied over. A miniscule stub is left behind. It’s a part of your chromosomes called telomeres. It’s inconsequentially small, but it eventually starts to add up. Eventually the telomeres will become so short that the DNA can’t be copied over, finally stopping the cell from dividing any further. On top of all that, we are all constantly moving through a tsunami of radiation and other sources of damage. Cosmic rays from the sky, radiation released by decaying stone from the earth, chemicals from our food and viruses from the air, all attack us. We evolved for these conditions of course, so there’s no need to worry about it, but there’s no way to protect yourself completely, and our DNA, our genes, can be damaged at any time, and often will be. When the DNA gets too damaged, it’ll either not work or it will work wrong, which means cancer.

Meanwhile, every cell in my body is creating waste as it functions. Most of that waste is carried away, but not all of it. One such waste product is lipofuscin. This is found in such places as my nerve endings, my liver, my kidneys, and my heart, and it is very slowly building up. Eventually it will build up so much that the cells themselves will be so buried in their own waste that they won’t be able to function. Once a majority of cells are buried in pollution, the organ will inevitably fail.

Free radicals are running rampant in my body. That’s not all bad, my body actually uses them to fight bacteria, for my cells to communicate to each other, and other functions. But unfortunately they also can damage my cells. They can attach to my DNA and damage it. Beside the cancers this can cause, the free radicals might also give me diabetes, Alzheimer's, or a bundle of other nasties.

Finally, there’s simple wear and tear. My body, even with gentle care can only take so much before it’s like an old shirt - misshapen, faded, full of holes and one little tug away from tearing completely.

Physical frailty aside, there are other changes that are becoming more obvious as I age. My brain is becoming less elastic, the creases that mark neural paths are getting deeper and more substantial. This means I’m becoming more prone to be stuck in my ways. Gone are the days when I’d instantly adapt to something new; the very shape of my brain demands that I prefer things the way I’m used to. Further, established neural connections mean that certain stimuli, whether they be as subtle as a mild scent or complex as a passage in a book, are associated with certain thought processes, certain memories. As I age it gets harder for me to experience things in new ways, for events and stimuli to evoke original thoughts. In short, my sense of wonder is becoming excluded by routine. Now, it is scientific fact that pop music is becoming blander and more homogenised with every passing year, which means that I personally am able to enjoy it less, but the fact is I’m increasingly in danger of losing touch with new music. Soon I may only be able to fully appreciate music from my era, or music that apes that sound. Anything new will be confusing to me, my static brain will not be able to identify or adapt, and each step in musical trends I miss, the more confusing the whole will become. Likewise, technology will eventually leave me behind. Especially since the rate of progress is always accelerating. There are still old people today who won’t use an ATM. What will I find simply too much effort to learn? Some technology none of us today has dreamed of, no doubt.

So this is aging. At least it is several hypotheses on what aging is. In reality nobody knows why exactly we grow old. We’ve read the genomes of pigs, we’ve landed robots on Mars, but we don’t know exactly why we age. Our intellects are humbled, for now at least, by our own most personal and basic functions (which actually makes the chance of unlocking immortality in my lifetime fairly unlikely). What is certain is that from 40 onwards, I will lose pigmentation in my hair so that it turns grey or white, I will become increasingly fragile, my organs will degrade, my skin will wrinkle and discolour, my muscles will weaken, my metabolism will change, I will grow increasingly tired and stiff and sore, and eventually, inevitably, one system or another will fail, leading to a catastrophic failure throughout my body and I will die.

The saying “life begins at 40” came about in the 20th century. A time when by age 40, your children will have grown up, your home loan will be paid off, and you can sit back and relax a bit. Today, when home loans take a lifetime to repay and children are born much later and leave home later still, it just doesn’t have that bang to it. It turns out “life begins at 40” was first coined by Walter Pitkin, and it was a twist on an earlier saying that was common in the 19th century, “death begins at 40”. Back then a lot of people didn’t live past their 40s, so death really did begin then. Today, it marks the halfway point. Today the life expectancy as a man in Australia is looking like 79.5 years, though I only have a 41.5% chance of surviving past age 85. Now I’m a fairly healthy and fit vegetarian, which makes it likely I’ll live longer. On the other hand I’m prone to anxiety and stomach complaints, which must rub the seconds away. And my longest-lived grandparent died in her mid-70s, so the odds go down a bit more. And of course the future could hold anything. Australia could go broke and the life expectancy would tumble. Scientific progress could unlock the secrets of longevity or even immortality and make it available to me (assuming they figure out what actually causes aging in the first place). I could drop dead before you finish reading this. Or I could naturally live to 120. But most likely, it is safe to say that I have now lived slightly more than half my life. I have more years behind me than in front of me. Death is no longer an abstract, but a certainty that edges ever closer. Actually that was always true, but it’s becoming ever more obvious.

It’s not so bad though. Thinking back, I've lived a really long time. And I can’t even remember much of the first decade. Having all those years ahead of me makes me think that another adage, “life is short”, is absolute nonsense. When I was a teenager, I hoped I’d never live to 30. That’s not an uncommon idea for teenagers. It’s also, in hindsight, pretty stupid. I don’t recall if I ever thought about being 40 back then, but now that I’m here, it’s actually pretty good. Sure my body’s not as tolerant of the abuse I once subjected it to, but my life is becoming increasingly comfortable. I’m sure that in a decade, I’ll look back on this time with fondness and be comfortable with being 50. And when I’m 80, If I reach that point, I will no doubt be content enough with that age as well. Life is a journey without pause, whether we want it to be or not. There’s only one destination. There’s no point in trying to stop off at high school, or in your 20s, or at any other time. Time laughs at those who have cosmetic surgery or try to live a second childhood, and they eventually pay for their folly. So since we’re on the journey, it’s best to sit back and enjoy the scenery. I’d love to be physically 20 again, who wouldn’t? But you know what? Today I’m ok with being 40.

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
8:32 pm - Hottest 100 - Hearts a Mess - Gotye
Ranked #77 Hottest Song of All Time. Released in 2006.

Here’s a pleasant little song that wouldn’t go astray played on the radio at about three in the morning, though this might upset the late-night driver that got put to sleep by it. The song would also sit very comfortably between a Police track and one by Peter Gabriel later in his career.

Gotye is pronounced Goy-tee-yay, and it’s the French version of his real name, which is the Dutch version of Walter, though he’s from Belgium originally. Just why the bloke feels he must make things so complicated for everyone is perhaps left unexplored.

This Australian act is quite pleasant, I wouldn’t necessarily buy an album but I don’t get violent when I hear it on the radio. Actually a wolverine smoking ice probably wouldn’t get violent while this particular song is playing, it’s very mellow. Yet terribly angsty.

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Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
2:34 pm - Hottest 100 - Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil
Ranked # 97 Hottest Song of All Time, released in 1987. Here’s another Singstar song, one I can’t do to save my life. There’s something about Peter Garrett’s lyrics that defy tone repetition. Ah, remember Peter Garrett? He used to be an activist, standing up for the rights of Aboriginal people and the environment. Which is what this song was about. A lot of his songs were about that sort of thing. This music poll came out after he had become the Honourable Member for Kingsford Smith under the Labor party, but before it became blindingly obvious that he’d sold out all of his principles and that he wasn’t actually a very good politician. I mean, joining the Labor party was a big hint of course, but the full extent of his descent into the abyss hadn’t yet been revealed. I wonder if this song would have made it onto the list if the poll were run today? And had the poll been run before he joined Labor, would it have ended up higher?

That said, this song isn’t about the environment, or uranium, or electrified ceilings. It’s about the Pintupi Aboriginal people, who have not been disserviced by the Honourable Member so far. The Pintupi are pretty interesting. They lived a more-or-less traditional lifestyle out in the desert right up until the 1960s, when the remainder that hadn’t left of their own free will were forced oh-so-lovingly by the Menzies government to settle at Papunya, an Aboriginal reserve filled with all sorts of disparate Aboriginal groups who had likewise been booted off their land. There they were to be re-educated prior to assimilation into white Australia. It’s not so easy to live next door to people who have traditionally been at war with you for ten thousand years or so. Being forced to what is essentially a foreign country and being told to forget everything you know and love is bad enough, but one in six residents ended up dying of preventable and treatable diseases in the first half decade alone. So in 1981 a large number of Pintupi said bugger this, and moved a good distance west to what they saw as their home country, and founded the settlement of Kintore, known to them as Walungurru. And that’s what the song is about.

Midnight Oil is one of the great Australian bands of course. And this is one of their best songs. Such a band couldn’t exist today, which is sad. Maybe when the oligarchy of the music industry giants is finally crushed, meaningful and passionate music will blossom again. In the meantime, dwell on this: the name Midnight Oil was one of several the band was considering. They wrote all the names on scraps of paper and drew one out of a hat. Just think, they might have ended up being called Akubra Size 7.

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Thursday, June 9th, 2011
3:34 pm - Hottest 100 - The Prodigy – Breathe
Ranked #70 Hottest Song of All Time. Released in 1996. Wow, was it really that long ago that this song came out? I recently said that this is the closest to heavy metal that you’re likely to hear that isn’t actually in any way heavy metal. I adore this one, it has everything. An amazing video clip, cool lyrics, and a beat you can really get in trouble to. They call the style oldskool jungle, but don’t hold that against them.

I don’t think there’s any great message behind the song, it’s just a nightmare ensemble of aural emotive triggers. It puts you in mind of claustrophobia, suffocation, and of course madness. Maybe being controlled against your will. But even this is probably reading a bit too much into it. The nightmare imagery of the video clip really adds to these impressions.

The band was named after the Moog (pronounced Morg) Prodigy, an early synthesiser that had lots of exciting dials and a nifty wood finish.

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3:11 pm - Hottest 100 - Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
Ranked #100 Hottest Song of All Time. Released in 2004. Wow, whoever compiled this album really wanted this song on there. It’s the bottom of the list, probably about three votes shy of not appearing at all.
Franz Ferdinand is a Scottish band, of a style called “post punk revival”, one of those desperate attempts to categorise things in a meaningful way, that in fact becomes meaningless because of the total lack of order, distinction, or universally agreed terminology. If librarians controlled the music industry, the style would be called DX874.5 2002 or something. Something soulless, but excellently suited for archival purposes.

The song itself is pretty good, it is relentless and fast without being too in-your-face. It is a lot meatier than a lot of its contemporaries, and would probably make a terrible ringtone. I like the percussion, which puts me in mind of a hammer made of lead. The lyrics seem to be about a guy watching a girl from afar in a nightclub, knowing that he’ll be shot down if he even tries to ask her out. Or it’s about a sniper.

The band of course takes its name from a famous racehorse. Yes, that’s right. Though the horse was actually called Archduke Ferdinand, so ultimately they are named after the guy whos shooting was the final event that started World War I to start, as it had been waiting to do for some time.

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2:49 pm - Hottest 100 - The Cure - Close to Me
Ranked #54 hottest song of all time. Released in 1985. Hello everyone, it’s been a year and a half and this reviewing thing is wildly out of date now, but I feel I need to complete it before I can move on. So here we go. The Cure was the presentable face of the Goth movement. They had songs that weren’t too mopey or heavy, which ordinary people could sing along to in their cars on the way to work. They also had downright kooky stuff that really caught the eye of young Simon watching Rage many hours after he should have gone to bed, but will never get played on the radio. Then again, a Dio song was on the radio the other day, so who knows?

The band wasn’t always goth though. They started as a kind of punk-influenced pop band, which is I suppose why they’re accessible. And they never broke up, so they’re still out there Rolling Stones-like, playing stuff that’s a lot less gothy. They may be coming soon to a waterlogged cupboard near you.

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Friday, January 29th, 2010
3:47 pm - Hottest 100 - The Beach Boys, God ONly KNows
Ranked #43 hottest song of all time. Released in 1966. WHAAAAAAA!? I can not get my head around this one. The Beach Boys. 1966. Not Good Vibrations or anything. Who the hell voted for this? Why, out of all the other stuff on the Hottest 100 list, was this one chosen for the album? I mean, OK, it's not a bad song, better than that awful Paranoid Android anyway. And it is the hottest 100 of all time. But I mean, Beethoven wrote better stuff than this. King Henry VIII wrote Greensleeves centuries ago, and all the ice cream trucks use it even today. But they aren't on the album. OK, so the song was innovative. For its time. For an American pop song. But there were bands all over the place doing more innovative stuff than this at the time.

-sigh- Anyway, this song was considered quite daring because its opening line is "I may not always love you". Unfortunately this has the added caveat of "but I will love you for a length of time that is practically infinite, certainly the duration of the love will outlast our own fragile human bodies.

Well that about does it. No hang on, I still have another gripe. Falsetto! Why?

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3:37 pm - Hottest 100 - The Shins, New Slang
Ranked #72 hottest song of all time. Released in 2001. Alright, I admit, I don't know a damn thing about this song. Maybe the Killers experience shook my confidence.

This not-Australian-but American band (what is it with these American bands that sound like they're from somewhere else? Haven't they heard of sereotypes?) is an indie mob who nevertheless have had this song played on Scrubs and a McDonalds ad. Which is nice for them. It must be good to get a decent bit of money out of your art. I should do some art that other people would pay for, some day. Not McDonalds of course, someone nicer but just as rich. Google or someone. Though Scrubs is a good show, they could use my hypothetical art if they wanted.

Alright, enough waffle, I said I didn't know anything about it. Here's the clip. Listen for the cool cymbal at the end.

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3:26 pm - Hottest 100 - The Killers, Mr. Brightside
Ranked #38 hottest song of all time. Released in 2004. Here's your classic Brit-pop scouse-accented rock ban ... what? They're American? Huh. Vegas scouse? No? Well there you go, I shouldn't go making assumptions.

This is a great song about someone freaking out and going crazy over him imagining his girlfriend cheating on him. Which, being OCD myself, I can totally empathi ... what? She actually did cheat on him? Huh. OK, it's based on a true story, the lead singer got a 6th sense that his girlfriend was cheating on him, and sure enough he busted her in a pub ... I mean bar. No, wait, it was a pub, the Crown and Anchor pub. Are these blokes Liverpudlian or not?

Damn it, I suppose The Killers are actual killers, and the lead singer has one side that's very bright. I don't know any more. Here's the song.

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3:10 pm - Hottest 100 - You Am I, Berlin Chair
Ranked #52 hottest song of all time. Released in 1994. You Am I is one of those odd bands that Triple J finds, that by all rights should not be famous. But despite the shortcomings of the musicians, the actual music is inspired. Hell, this track isn't even mixed very well, and the sound quality is terrible. But it's still good. A lot of other bands have covered this song, I can't recall hearing them, but I bet they're great.

I'm not sure exactly what "You Am I" means, at a guess I'd say it's an acronym, U.M.I., but I don't know what that would stand for. Wikipedia says it's from them getting really drunk while playing. But who knows what that means. This is the original Berlin Chair, an artwork that the artist, after exhibiting it, used in his house for years as an ordinary chair:

I don't get the relevance frankly. Ah You Am I, so full of enigmas. Never mind, here's the music video for it. Which is pretty brilliant.

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Thursday, January 14th, 2010
1:31 pm - Hottest 100 - Queens of the Stone Age, No One Knows
Ranked #45 hottest song of all time, released in 2002. This is the only polka tune to make in into the top 100 charts in the entire 20th century. Though there is in fact a small but thriving "punk polka" genre in the US. Can't say I've heard any of it. Queens of the Stone Age are of course more known for their more standard 4/4 blues progression rock music and other edgy modern styles.

This song features Mr Dave Grohl on drums, and damn he's good. Of course Dave Grohl also featured on the Nirvana track that won this poll. He wasn't always their drummer, and isn't again now, but for a while, the band was golden.

The band is called Queens of the Stone Age because of their heavy, percussion-based sound, like cave-men. ANd they're queens because, well I don't know, they wanted to share the female-moniker-for-an-all-male-band stable with Violent Femmes I suppose.

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Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
1:54 pm - Hottest 100 - New Order, Blue Monday
Ranked #32 hottest song of all time. Released in 1983. A song from my youth! As a wee lad I'd stay up watching Rage all night, and this song would always be on. Though that was probably the 1988 remix that I can remember.

This is the band that used to be Joy Division, which was previously covered here. And you can hear the inexorable slide from punk into electronic dance crap, this one being more of the latter.

The title "Blue Monday" doesn't have much to do with the song, and was in fact some kind of coding for the single release that doubled as the song's name, or something equally dull. I don't know, just listen to the song, it's all right.

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1:44 pm - Hottest 100 - Bloc Party, Banquet
Ranked #42 hottest song of all time. Released in 2004. Apparently this music is something called "post punk revival". This just goes to show the lengths some people will go to in order to lable stuff. The music is kind of slightly reminiscent of late Clash, which I suppose was post-punk in a literal sense. But really, they're just a band making their own music, let's leave it as that. Anyway, they write songs for Kylie Minogue, you don't get much less punk than her.

This song is a kind of mash-up, it seems to me that there's at least four distinct songs in there, they don't sound much like eachother and they're not really thematically connected either. I don't know, maybe this is one of those songs you're not meant to think about. Nevertheless, I like it, though it isn't my favourite Bloc Party tune.

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Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
10:42 am - Hottest 100 - Rage Against The Machine, Killing in the Name
Ranked #2 hottest song of all time. Released in 1992. Hey, this one's topical! If you haven't heard already, this song is currently (the week before Christmas 2009) #1 in the charts in the UK due to a mass protest against Simon Cowell and the corporate hit factory X-Factor. Someone said "Buy this song", and half a million people said "F*** yes, I'll do what you tell me". Paul O'Brien, an actual honest-to-goodness UK person, has written a good take on it, if you want to know more. But I will just say it was more than just some twits on the net doing this, there were some huge names involved, and a powerful movement behind it. The event broke various records. I hope to see more of this sort of thing.

Anyway, Rage Against the Machine was an early example of rap/metal fusion, and were a genuine social conscience. They get a lot of jeers because they belong to corporate giant Sony and people think they were just cynically making money from people's disaffection. But I give them the benefit of the doubt. Part of the problem is, I think, that lead singer Zack de la Rocha's voice sounds like he's an angry 15 year old. He's actually older than me, he was in his 20s when this song was released.

Killing in the Name is the perfect protest music, because it doesn't really deliver any specific messages, beyond oblique references to the Ku Klux Klan. Mostly the message is Rebel! Don't do what they tell you! And "they" can be pretty much anyone. But rest assured, they have other songs that are very specific about what issues they concern.

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Monday, December 21st, 2009
2:44 pm - Hottest 100 - Augie March, One Crowded Hour
Ranked #59 hottest song of all time. Released in 2006. Another Australian Band. That's why I love Triple J, they give the locals a go. This song is inspired by celebrated photographer Neil Davis, who has a biography by that name. The biography in turn is named for a line from the poem "The Call", by Thomas Mordant (and not Walter Scott, as that lying Google will try to tell you):

"Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
Throughout the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name."

Now Neil Davis made his name, and met his death, as a wartime photojournalist (his last act was to film his dying reporter as he himself died). The poem is about soldiers at war. But the actual song doesn't have anything to do with war. From what I can tell, it's about meeting a kindred spirit in a shitty bar, who actually has a bit of depth and heart to her, but the love turning sour because there's no respect there. Nevertheless, I suspect this to be good legopener music. It's a lovely and emotional song.

Augie March is the tiular character in a classic American piece of literature that I've never heard of.

And that's the end of disc one! When I get around to it, we start disc two.

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2:18 pm - Hottest 100 - David Bowie, Life on Mars?
Ranked #79 hottest song of all time. Released in 1973. Here's another Singstar song. It's a great one to sing, too. Who knows what the song is about, it's another one where the lyrics don't make a lot of sense. Though apparently it's making fun of Frank Sinatra for fairly convoluted, but valid, reasons that I won't go into here. Like Smells Like Teen Spirit, the song is incredibly powerful despite, or is it because, the lyrics make no sense.

Well, what else is there to say about a song that came out when I was seven months old? David Bowie had no eyebrows at this stage in his career. The song inspired a TV series by the same name, which I always meant to watch but never got around to, but apparently it was fantastic. For some reason I find it really funny to sing "Sailors fighting in the gay bar". And the jury is still out whether there is any life on Mars, 36 years later. Let's all hope there is some.

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2:01 pm - Hottest 100 - Powderfinger, These Days
Ranked #21 hottest song of all time. Released in 2000. This poignant little song was actually written for the rather excellent Australian gangster movie Two Hands. You should see it if you haven't. It has Heath Ledger in it, and he's great because he's dead now. Lead singer Bernard Fanning also played this song at his funeral. Interestingly, this song got a lot of attention, and various awards, despite never being actually released as a single. It's even (mis)quoted in another song on this album, Nosebleed Section by the Hilltop Hoods.

I quite like this song despite the singing veering dangerously close to falsetto. I think you should realise by now that I can;t stand falsetto singing. That's probably why I can't stomach Radiohead. Unfortunately, there's more falsetto to come. I supposed I should just consider myself lucky that whoever compiled the album couldn't include Frankie Valley.

Powderfinger is the name of a Neil Young song. The term refers to being shot, gunpoweder and a trigger finger. Of course, with other bands such as Silverchair and Grinspoon, you have to wonder if Australian musos just like throwing apparently unconnected words together.

The following is not the offical video. That doesn't exist, because as I said, the song was never released as a single.

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1:41 pm - Hottest 100 - The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army
Ranked #20 hottest song of all time. Released in 2003. Proof positive that all you need for a hit song is a killer riff. In this case the riff makes up almost the entire song. Amazingly, this actually works quite well, and doesn't get annoying at all. This one single is about the only truly great song they've done, though.

The White Stripes are a divorced couple, meaning most of their music only has a couple of instruments on it. Which adds to the appeal of this song. It's stripped back to its core elements, making it focused and powerful in a very different way to the huge sound of a full band or orchestra.

The song also has a spectacular video clip. Seven Nation Army is what Jack White used to call the Salvation Army when he was a kid.

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Saturday, December 12th, 2009
3:31 pm - Hottest 100 - Violent Femmes, Blister in the Sun
Ranked #64 hottest song of all time. Released in 1983. Ah, the Violent Femmes. Late nights in Cairns nightclubs, drinking too much and failing utterly to attract any women. That's what this song is to me. Also driving places with mates, where ever the hell we were going it never really mattered as much as having a bunch of friends in the car. Keep in mind that all this was years after the song was actually released. It's the perfect tune for this kind of thing, it's simple, catchy, repetitive, and performed competently but not well enough to embarrass entire crowds out of screaming along in drunken unity to the record. Even if people like me were screaming "let me go wild" rather than "let me go on". And sometimes "twister in the sun". But that doesn't matter, which is why this song is so great.

I don't know what has taken the place of Violent Femmes and Radiators today, it was a good niche that might not even exist any more. Or maybe it's still Violent Femmes and Radiators.

I have no idea what a blister in the sun is. One theory is it is about herpes, but I kind of doubt that. I also don't know who Big Hands may be, though the fact that he's staining his sheets hints at masturbation. It is kind of remarkable that a band called Violent Femmes has an all-male lineup. Though this album does include Queens of the Stone Age, so it's not unique. Violent Femmes' first album contained a lot of music like this, and Add It Up, which has the verse "why can't I get just one fuck". So it was a surprise when my brother bought a bunch of their albums back in the 90s and they were full of churchy music. But we'll always have 1983.

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